The Workable and Flexible Work Act of 5 March 2017 aims to modernise employment law and make it more flexible. Previously (Eubelius Spotlights June 2017), we provided an overview of the immediately applicable measures regarding working time, occasional teleworking and training. We now outline the newly established legal framework for flexible work time schedules and the measures for simplification of part-time employment. These will enter into force on 1 October 2017.
Legal framework for flexible work time schedules
A flexible work time schedule consists of (i) fixed periods during which the employee must be at the employer's disposal (= "core time" – "stamtijd"/"plage fixe"), and (ii) variable periods during which the employee starts and ends his/her working day and takes breaks at the times he/she chooses (= "flexible time" – "glijtijd"/"plages mobiles").
Strictly speaking, before the Workable and Flexible Work Act, flexible work time schedules were not allowed by law. They were nevertheless used in practice and tolerated by the Federal Public Service (FPS) Employment inspectors, as long as the maximum working time limits were not exceeded and the work performed was duly recorded.
The Workable and Flexible Work Act establishes a legal framework for flexible work time schedules, and provides a transitional regime for companies that were already using such schedules before 1 February 2017.
A collective labour agreement (CLA) or the company’s work regulations can allow the introduction of a flexible work time schedule, for full-time employees and for part-time employees with a fixed work time schedule. The Act specifies which aspects are to be regulated in the CLA or in the work regulations, and within which limits. In all cases, the work regulations have to be adapted accordingly. The employer must have a time monitoring system that records the daily work performed by each employee concerned as provided for by the law. The Act also stipulates specific rules regarding wage computation and working time.
The Act provided for a transitional regime for companies that were already using flexible work time schedules before 1 February 2017, provided that the system was formalised, by 30 June 2017 at the latest, in a CLA filed at the registry of FPS Employment or in the company's work regulations.
Simplification of part-time employment
The Workable and Flexible Work Act simplifies the documentation and formalities for part-time employment.
The Act removes the obligation to describe all possible part-time employment schemes and work time schedules in the work regulations.
For part-time employment with a variable work time schedule, several aspects must be mentioned in the work regulations. These include the days of the week on which work may be performed, and the minimum and maximum daily working time. The employment agreement only needs to specify the agreed part-time employment scheme and make reference to the rules of the work regulations.
For part-time employment with a fixed work time schedule, the agreed part-time employment scheme and work time schedule still have to be mentioned in the employment agreement. The preparatory documents for the act specified that the parties may freely agree on the fixed part-time work schedules, and that they are not limited to the part-time employment schemes and work time schedules mentioned in the work regulations. However, the agreed employment schemes and work time schedule must fit within the working times as determined by the work regulations.
The employer must still retain a copy of each part-time employment agreement, in the same place as the work regulations. The Act allows for the copy to be stored on electronic media.
Work performed outside the part-time work schedule still has to be recorded using a reliable time monitoring system, or otherwise in a document. The time monitoring system must comply with the legal requirements. It will no longer be mandatory to print the recorded data at least once a week; however, the recorded data must be retained.
Part-time employees with a variable work time schedule must be informed by the employer, in advance, of the work time schedules that apply to them. Under the present rules, the employer must display two notices: (1) the daily work time schedules (at least five working days in advance), and (2) the working time schedule for each part-time employee individually (before the beginning of the working day). The Workable and Flexible Work Act simplifies these rules: now, only one communication of the individually applicable work time schedules will be required. The communication must be issued at least five working days in advance, and it must be retained for one year in hard-copy or electronic form. A CLA declared binding by royal decree may change the number of days specified for the advance notice period, but this period may not be shorter than one working day. CLAs concluded before 1 October 2017 remain into force, provided that the minimum notice period of one working day is respected.
Entry into force and transitional regime
These measures regarding part-time employment will enter into force on 1 October 2017. Companies which are already applying variable part-time work schedules are allowed an additional six months period to align their work regulations with the new rules, and may continue to apply the present legal rules in the meantime.